"They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you" (vs. 33). For anyone whose ever wondered, "Why can't we just all get along?", Exodus 23:20-33 offers an intriguing answer.
God is shown as concerned that co-existence of other people groups and religions within the borders of Israel will lead to sin for the entire nation. It isn't a matter of eradicating non-Jews; it's an issue of maintaining purity and whole-hearted devotion for the Lord's people.
The Lord said, "You shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars into pieces" (vs. 24). Is God merely being jealous in His insistence on being first? Just what kind of gods is God warning His people against?
The nations inhabiting the Promised Land practiced the most vile and cruel of pagan nature religions. Focusing on fertility, their acts of worship involved child sacrifice, prostitution, and a myriad of sexual perversions. There can be no peaceful co-existence between the things of God and the things of Satan.
How do we know this? Because God's warnings went unheeded by the Israelites, and what was predicted came to pass. When the worshipers of other gods were not removed from the land, they became a snare to God's people. Ultimately, the Jewish nation itself was lost because of its constant dalliance with idolatry and pagan practices.
I believe things would have turned out quite differently if God's commands, however extreme they sound to us, had been followed as first laid out...